The Coaching Inn—Tonbridge
Around the end of the Georgian period (1714 to 1830), the population of Tonbridge in Kent in Southeast England numbered about two thousand. It was a main stop for stagecoaches travelling from London to Hastings and Rye and was used as a staging post for the mail coaches, where horses could be changed and passengers provided with food.
The coaches the travelers rode in during the early eighteenth century were heavy, lumbering vehicles devoid of springs. They were generally covered with dull black leather, studded with nails and the frames and wheels picked out with red. The windows were covered with boards or sometimes with leather curtains. Pastor Moritz, who came to England in 1782, found a coach of this description still upon the roads, and having a taste for fresh air and sunshine he complained of a fellow traveller, a farmer “who seemed anxious to shun the light and so shut up every window he could come at.” It was not the light to which the farmer objected—no one in England minded light—but they did object to the air that came through the window. This was considered prejudicial to health.
Though the carriage or coach ride had to be jarring, the countryside in Essex would have been beautiful.
In To Tame the Wind, set in 1782, the hero and heroine flee London (and her French pirate father) for Rye via carriage, which is how the upper classes most frequently traveled (though some Englishmen might prefer to travel on horseback). It would take them two days from London with an overnight in Tonbridge.
The roads were very rough and they would be jostled around in what was essentially a padded box. In Sussex the roads were often impassable in winter. Fortunately, my hero and heroine traveled in summer.
Once they arrived in Tonbridge, they stayed at the Rose and Crown, a coaching inn open for business then and still serving travelers today. Located on High Street, it is just down from the Ivy Public House.
The original Rose and Crown inn was a Tudor house built in the 16th century. The front and porch display alterations made some two centuries later. Thus, as my hero and heroine saw it, the inn was a fine timber-framed building with an impressive brick façade. According to its current owner, it still features “many oak beams and Jacobean panels” inside.
At the sign of the Rose and Crown, one could find a comfortable bed and a hot meal. It was known in the Stuart Court, to Roundheads and Cavaliers, to the diary writers John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys and to all the travellers who passed on their way to Rye, Hastings or “the Wells” in the wasteland to the south.
While a traveller had his choice of inns, he had to choose carefully. There were the grand establishments, the posting houses, such as the Rose and Crown, which entertained the quality who posted in their own carriages. Such inns might accommodate a riding gentleman if his servants accompanied him. Some of these inns accepted passengers from the mail-coach, some did not; but they would not to take in passengers from a common stage. Those people had to go to the inns that catered to them.
Even in good inns it was not unusual for strangers to share rooms or even beds, as my hero, Captain Powell tells the heroine. This was regarded in much the same way as the sharing of a ship’s cabin in later times.
On the whole, English coaching inns were good. Arthur Young, who had travelled through the length and breadth of England, described them as “neat inns, well-dressed and clean people keeping them, good furniture and refreshing civility.
About To Tame the Wind
Paris 1782…AN INNOCENT IS TAKEN
All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell’s schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear… her.
A BATTLE IS JOINED
The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire’s father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.
About the Author
Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits were encouraged. One of her professors suggested a career in law, and she took that path. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown.” Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” Each of her novels features real history and real historic figures. And, of course, adventure and love.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, who she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
Hi, Susana! Thanks for having me as a guest in your Parlour to talk about travel by coach and carriage in England in the late 18th century.
Reblogged this on bevieann61's Blog. about books!!!.
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Thanks so much Bev!
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Your welcome I love your blog